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Dan Hust | Democrat

Kauneonga Lake’s downtown business district is so popular that roadside parking issues have become problematic. This view, taken in the morning when parking is plentiful, is from the corner of the firehouse’s entranceway.

Hamlet’s growing pains

By Dan Hust
WHITE LAKE — October 1, 2010 — Kauneonga Lake has recently evolved into a must-visit destination for tourists and residents alike.
But its profusion of popular stores and restaurants clustered around a downtown triangle means roadside parking is often in very short supply.
Indeed, Frank DiCostanzo of the Kauneonga Lake Fire Department wrote to Town of Bethel Board members about that very issue, discussed at Wednesday’s regular meeting.
With the firehouse sitting on the eastern side of the triangle, emergency responders have gotten worried.
“At busy times, [we] are concerned that the overcrowding is slowing response times down,” DiCostanzo wrote.
“One issue of major concern is parking on pavement. This is a violation of New York State traffic laws,” he continued. “Other than a few Sheriff’s [deputies] issuing a few summonses on occasion, this law is not being enforced.”
DiCostanzo said cars sticking into the roadway can narrow it so much that fire trucks can’t get through. He urged the board to address the matter with local business owners and law enforcement.
“We understand the lack of available space and the desire not to hinder the progress of local businesses,” DiCostanzo noted. “We appreciate their presence and would like to express our elation [at] having them in our town.
“However, one incident that may result in us not being able to respond correctly may result in a serious situation.”
Board members promised they’re working on the issue, pointing out that municipal parking is now available next to the old justice court just across Route 55.
“And it looks like the county is going to stripe parking spaces [on the road],” Councilwoman Denise Frangipane pointed out.
DiCostanzo had heard that the board had put a “gag order” on law enforcement to not push traffic laws, but officials said that’s not true.
“As far as I know, there’s no gag order,” Councilwoman Vicky Vassmer-Simpson stated.
Supervisor Dan Sturm said a town constable walks the area two times a week during the summer, often on the busiest nights, to rectify issues, give directions to the municipal parking, and inform visitors of the rules.
Constable Ray Neuenhoff, however, told board members that a utility pole on County Route 141 isn’t helping the situation, being so close to the road that if a car parks next to it, the route – which also provides an avenue to Bethel Woods and Bethel Motor Speedway – is reduced to a single lane.
Sturm added that lighting, signage, benches and garbage cans have been added to the downtown area to make it more user-friendly, but he wasn’t sure anything more could be done.
“It’s a good issue to have,” he related, “because it means we’re getting business.”
“Kauneonga Lake is busy,” said Frangipane, who also calls the hamlet home. “That’s just the way it is.”
‘Alarming’ Situation
Elsewhere during Wednesday’s town board meeting, the White Lake Fire Department’s concerns about the number of false alarms prompted the introduction of a new local law.
Though still in unapproved draft form, the law would fine owners of properties where there are numerous false fire alarms.
The fine schedule, however, was altered at the meeting, with Sturm advocating for a no-fee warning for the first false alarm and then graduated fees for every one thereafter, up to $1,000 for five or more false alarms.
“It’s costing taxpayers and costing us in hours,” said White Lake Fire Commissioner Lee Stackhouse.
Neuenhoff warned that such a system may find the town often in court, but the board agreed that property owners, rather than alarm companies, will be held liable – thus cutting down on out-of-area court costs.
Frangipane advocated for a standardized process and documentation for all the fire departments townwide to ensure fairness and lessen problems.
Sturm said the draft law will be refined and a public hearing set at a future meeting.

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